In a new study, medical experts found that a 28-day regimen of corticosteroids, or steroids, lowered mortality among critically ill COVID-19 patients compared to usual care or placebo treatment.
The World Health Organization Rapid Evidence Appraisal for COVID-19 Therapies [REACT] Working Group says the results of the study came from meta-analysis of seven randomized clinical trials that included 1,703 critically ill patients, of which 647 died.
“The efforts of the clinical trial groups for the launch and conduct of high-quality trials in the midst of a pandemic should be acknowledged as an important accomplishment,” Drs. Hallie Prescott and Todd Rice wrote in a JAMA medical journal editorial.
“The agreement among the trialists to share unpublished data with WHO is an example of how science can advance and is critical.”
The doctors wrote steroids are inexpensive, readily available, and based on the new data are associated with reduced mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19. The side effects of this anti-inflammatory drug include possible weight gain, blurred vision, onset or worsening of diabetes and irritability.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, however, guidance regarding steroids were mixed and to some degree remains controversial.
Dr. Anthony Gordon of Imperial College London called the result “a huge step forward,” according to the Associated Press. He added, “as impressive as these results are, it’s not a cure.”
Journal authors say while the trials produced positive results, the study does have limitations.
“The trials only recruited adults, and the effect of corticosteroids on children remains unclear. Similarly, the trials were mainly conducted in high-income settings,” they wrote. “One trial reported mortality at 21 days and one trial reported mortality at 30 days after randomization, potentially leading to inconsistency between trial results.”
The study found in conclusion that the administration of systemic steroids was associated with lower 28-day all-cause mortality for patients.
The World Health Organization [WHO] says steroids have received worldwide attention as a potentially effective treatment for COVID-19 and has been added to a model list of essential medicines, readily available globally at a low cost.
As of Sept. 5, there have been over 26 million cases of COVID-19 globally resulting in over 800,000 deaths.
In the U.S., six million cases have been identified with over 188,000 deaths due to the disease.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought fear and a sea of change to the world,” Drs. Prescott and Rice wrote. “These studies provide evidence and some hope that an effective, inexpensive, and safe treatment has been identified.”
“Despite the widespread morbidity and mortality, and societal disruption caused by this pandemic, the work and collaboration of these networks provide hope for advancing science and humanity through this pandemic and beyond.”